JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to create a “fait accompli” over rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean by drilling off the coast of Libya, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.
Ankara’s announcement that it intends to activate last year’s maritime borders agreement with the Libyan government in Tripoli has brought simmering tensions to the boil.
Turkey claims the agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between its southern coast and Libya’s northeastern coast. However, Greece, Cyprus and the EU say the deal is illegal. Turkey may also face EU sanctions over drilling in Cypriot territorial waters.
Ankara has not said exactly where it will drill, but experts told Arab News they expect exploration activities to begin off Tripoli in the short term, and then near to the coastal city of Sirte.
“From a tactical point of view, Turkey may test the scenario of a crisis with Athens where escalation takes place and then, in the context of de-escalation, the two countries would have to discuss and negotiate their positions,” said Zenonas Tziarras, a researcher at PRIO Cyprus Centre.
Mona Sukkarieh, a political risk consultant and co-founder of Middle East Strategic Perspectives, said: “If we take Turkish operations off the Cypriot coast as an indicator, operations off the Libyan coast might start off on the less provocative part of the spectrum and grow bolder with time toward the more provocative part of the spectrum.
“The objective is to demonstrate a resolute determination in order to extract concessions or, at the very least, to impose itself as a player to reckon with.”